My name is Wendy and I am a daughter, a friend, a student, and, most importantly, a DREAMer. I came to this country in 1999 from Peru when I was seven years old, accompanied by my mother, father, and sister. Getting on the plane, I did not know that words like “undocumented” and “dreams” would play such a major role in my young adult life. Growing up in New York, I began to embrace the United States and the feeling of being an American; I learned to balance this country’s traditions with my own without difficulty. I came to notice that the people around me, regardless of their different ethnic backgrounds and customs, were not so different from me after all.
As early as elementary school, I worked hard to get good grades, going from ESL in second grade to straight A’s by third grade. I graduated the sixth grade with a great reputation amongst my peers and teachers; the logical thing to do at that point was reach for the same level of success in high school. Upon entering high school, I was sure that I would flourish both socially and academically–with nothing to get in the way of me and my aspirations. I thought High School would be yet another chapter in my life that would be full of ease and more opportunities to make my parents proud. Academically, I was able to flourish. I was in advanced classes as a freshman and sophomore, which made it possible for me to take Advanced Placement College level courses in my junior and senior years. I became involved in various extracurricular activities, and tried my best to hold office or be as much of an active member in everything that I joined. Being a member of clubs such as Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.) and the Foreign Language Honor Society allowed me to do two things that are very important to me: reach out to the youth in my community by teaching them about healthy decision making, as well as advocating unity amongst all individuals regardless of their backgrounds.
With all of that said, it was shattering to me when the burdens of my situation began to reveal themselves. With high school came a serious reality check. There were several setbacks I began to come across, all dealing with my future. Up to the age of 16, the effects of my legal status were just an impending nightmare that seemed very far away. While my closest friends threw lavish sweet sixteen parties, purchased their first cars, found steady jobs, and began to look into colleges, I found myself making more and more excuses for my lack of participation in these American ‘rights of passage.’ The frustration built up until my senior year in high school. The counselors at school could provide me with little to no information about my ‘undocumented’ dilemma and what I was to do about college. It was devastating to see so many doors being shut in my face so close to the end. My visions of going to a prestigious private university and getting awarded scholarships for my high grades quickly disintegrated. For the first time, I began to feel alone; I also felt very confused—how was it that innocent youth were being denied one of the most basic human rights? The right to be educated. There was nothing left for me to do but to condense my high expectations to accommodate my family’s financial possibilities, as the scholarship money I received was not enough to cover the full tuition of the schools to which I had applied. Without financial aid not much is possible.
I am currently enrolled in the Honors Program at a community college, and i’m working towards getting my associates degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Although I have been privileged enough to be able to continue my education beyond high school, I cannot say things have gone they way I’d expected. After i graduate from college, I would love to continue my education at Binghamton University—whose acceptance I had to respectfully decline—or Fordham University. I know it was not my grades that prevented me from applying to the best universities, as I graduated with a 4.0 GPA and ranked 12 in my graduating class—it was the lack of those nine digits. What’s worse is I did not willingly get myself into this situation; my parents, who had nothing but the best intentions for me and my sister, made the choice because they envisioned us achieving the American Dream.
Through my hard work and efforts I have achieved a 4.0 GPA and have been granted membership into Phi Theta Kappa—the international honor society of two year colleges. I know I have the drive and determination necessary to finish my studies and go on to become a professional in America. There is a force within me that is very powerful. I have a thirst to prove myself and a strong desire to come out on top. I cannot wait for the day that I’ll be recognized as something other than the “undocumented student”. I want to be seen as the young woman who has kept going regardless of the many obstacles thrown her way, the young woman who has not lost faith in the system even through these difficult times, and, most importantly, the young woman who has all intentions of fulfilling her dreams.